NFEH seminar on enrolling out-of-school children in Pakistan & CSR Award ceremony


Call to use 2,50,000 mosques in Pakistan in daytime as special literacy centres to impart primary schooling

Karachi: Over 2,50,000 mosques in the country should be used during the day hours as special literacy centres to impart primary-level school education as part of the accelerated drive to educate a record 26.2 million out-of-school children in Pakistan.
Former Caretaker Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, Aneeq Ahmed, put forth this suggestion while speaking as the chief guest at a seminar on effective steps to enrol out-of-school children in Pakistan organised by the National Forum for Environment and Health (NFEH).
The former interim Religious Affairs Minister said that there was a dire need to convert mosques into makeshift schooling facilities in the daytime to effectively combat the massive challenge of illiteracy in Pakistan.
He said the mosques remained empty in the daytime hours between Fajr and Zuhr prayers as using them as educational facilities would be the best use of this time.
He told the audience that the past interim government had worked on such a proposal with the involvement of the former President of Pakistan and former Caretaker Federal Education Minister to use mosques as educational facilities and dispensaries to serve underprivileged families.
He expressed serious dismay at the constant rise in the cost of quality education in the country due to the involvement of the private sector. He said the selling of basic public services including education like a commodity indicated a serious flaw in Pakistani society.
Speaking as the guest of honour, Member of the National Assembly from PPP,Dr Mirza Ikhtiar Baig, urged the concerned non-governmental organisations in the education sector to combine their efforts and draft proposed legislation required to tackle the challenge of illiteracy in Sindh.
The PPP’s MNA assured the audience that once such a draft bill would be ready, he would contact the Sindh Chief Minister and provincial Education Minister to get the proposed legislation approved for tabling in the Sindh Assembly.
Baig said that being an MNA his services were always available if the National Assembly was required to pass any legislation to get emergency support from the federal government to enrol the out-of-children.
He praised the services of various concerned NGOs and charities, which had actively extended a helping hand to the government to resolve the serious issue of illiteracy.
Zafar Abbas, founder of the non-profit JDC Foundation, expressed the apprehension that illiteracy would become a more serious challenge as a great number of children in urban areas would be compelled to leave schools after their parents from low and middle-income families would run out of resources to pay a hefty fee of private educational institutions.
He disclosed at the seminar that his non-profit received nearly 200,000 applications from concerned parents every month who sought emergency financial assistance for the continuity of the education of their children in private schools.
He lamented that despite the expenditure of billions of rupees reserved under the educational budget the government-run schools had been in shambles lacking basic academic facilities.
Fajer Rabia Pasha, former federal government adviser on girls’ education and women empowerment, lamented that up to 62 per cent of 26.2 million out-of-school children in the country were girls.
She said the latest literacy data showed that Pakistan was among the topmost nations with a record number of illiterate children.
She said the issue of illiteracy wasn’t confined to any particular province as it had emerged as a serious national issue in Pakistan requiring accelerated drives under the concept of non-formal education to educate the illiterate children.
Omer Mateen Allahwala, CEO of Orange Tree Foundation, lamented that there was a serious dearth of scholarships instituted at the school level in Pakistan to cover the entire academic expenses of the children from deprived families.
Muhammad Ghazzal, Chief Operating Officer of Saylani Welfare International Trust, said that his non-profit had the aim to impart formal school, IT, business, and technical education to a total of 10 million children from deserving families.
He said the government, concerned NGOs, and charities had to combine their efforts to act upon an emergency programme to end illiteracy in Pakistan as earlier happened to tackle the COVID-19 and flood emergencies in the country.
Mufti Naeem Shahid, CEO of Pak Aid Welfare Trust, said that there were 83,000 out-of-school children alone in Islamabad indicating the seriousness of the illiteracy challenge in the country.
He said that only 34 per cent of schools in the country had all the required infrastructure and academic facilities including playgrounds, proper buildings, boundary walls, and washrooms.
Abdul Jabbar Mari, Director of Planning and Programmes of Sindh Education Foundation, informed the audience about plans of the SEF to set up digital accelerated learning centres and non-formal education centres to enrol 2,50,000 out-of-school children next year.
NFEH President, Naeem Qureshi, urged the corporate organisations to help out under their CSR drives the concerned NGOs and charities in the education sector, which had been working hard to provide quality school education to children from the destitute communities.
Ruqiya Naeem and Nadeem Ashraf from NFEH, Uzair Zavari Turstee Baitus Salam, Zafar Saleem NGO Solution also spoke on the occasion.

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